I remember what Sunday mornings used to be like. Before I spent them in the nursery, wrestling what feels like a twenty pound bag of snakes. Sweating. Rolling my eyes at myself because I just had to wear this dress and it sure doesn't make it easy for me to move nor is it comfortable in the least bit. Before I had my hair pulled constantly and my bracelets ripped off, fighting a sleepy child.
Before these days, I sat comfortably in my pew. Bible in my lap, maybe a notepad out to take some notes. My husband's arm around me, listening attentively with absolute peace of mind.
I look in front of us now, on most Sunday mornings, before I leave to head to the nursery to listen to the sermon in there - because my child won't stop squealing or babbling or crying or screaming or just trying to flirt with the pretty girls that sit behind us, distracting everyone in plain view. I juggle the books, toys, snacks, and anything and everything else within arms reach I can use to distract him, but nothing works. I see the young couples in the rows, pointing out things to each other in their Bibles, cuddled close together with the husband's arm around the wife, calmness on their faces. That used to be us, I tell myself, as I stand up with my son in my arms, look down at our train wreck of a pew, the lonesome gap between my husband and I, grab my bag and let out a big huff of breath to display my discouragement.
It is one of those inevitable moments where I feel like I wasn't cut out for this mother stuff.
And then, once we get into the nursery, something in that moment is revealed to me.
I finally get him calmed down, tuck his little arm under mine, and begin to rock him slowly. The room is quiet and still. We stare at the mint green wall with the beautifully painted tree. And I see his head lift up to look me in the eyes. Over the speaker the preacher talks of being aware of our treasures. And at that moment, I am. He snuggles up closer to me, and I can feel his head relax on my bicep, eyelids having trouble staying opened. The way the light hits his skin makes it shimmer, almost like there is gold in it. He falls asleep with a little bit of a smile on his face. I wanted to be in there, with them.... but he, he is right where he wanted to be. And it is revealed to me, that as exhausting as motherhood is sometimes, and as much as it has changed the routine I've been so comfortable with, I can't imagine being like those couples in the pew again. I can't imagine not looking over at my husband and chuckling when a big burp comes out of such a little body. I can't imagine little arms not flailing in front of me as we sing our hymns. I can't imagine not seeing a little finger tracing the shapes in the books we pull out with hesitation.
And I can't, as much as I could try, imagine a Sunday morning ... with empty arms.
Being a mother has revealed to me that as much as I loved the honeymoon phase, this chapter of our lives is far better and I could never imagine life again, without my little shadow.
He's a little wobbly now. I watch his chubby thighs squat as he figures out a way to get down from the object he just pulled up on. Just three weeks ago he was learning to crawl. Today, he is standing while holding on to things and taking steps to get closer. He changed so quickly from the quiet little baby that we carried around to the child that illuminates every room we bring him into.
If someone could tell me how to stop this clock, and just be allowed to sit here, in this day I've spent with my son until I feel I've soaked up enough of it, I'd give anything. If I could stop the sun from setting, just for one day, just for a little while, until I felt enough sugars on my lips, saw enough smiles, and heard enough laughter to have it memorized in my soul, I can assure you, I would. But that's not what a sun is for. It's for counting our days. For reminding us that we have only a short amount of time to fill them with as much significance and joy as we can.
I often find myself staring at him when he doesn't know I'm watching, just playing with his toys and jabbering to himself. He always focuses so intently on everything he wants to play with. Sometimes I wonder if he'll one day be an architect. No matter what type of fun or colorful toy he touches, he is always inquisitive about how it is assembled. Such a promising little mind that I am helping shape and mold. And as I watch him, I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness to know that he is a part of me. But with the happiness always comes a little bit of sadness when I remember that I will only be given one of these moments, just like this.
And I can never get it back.
Being a mother has revealed to me that life flies by entirely too fast and as much as I ache to, I can't slow down a single day, or a single moment, of this beautiful journey.
Last week, I traveled back to where I grew up for a day in order to help my mom get some of my grandmother's things in order. I sat there with her, looking through old photo albums, watching her face light up when she saw one of my brother and me years ago. They were faded, partly because of the quality of cameras back then, but mostly because they had been in the book, behind the cover, for almost 30 years. But what isn't faded, are my memories of my childhood with my mother.
Two things I would never be able to separate in my mind are music and my childhood. I can still see her, in her lightly washed flare leg bluejeans with big vertical pockets, dancing to Gary Morris songs on our living room floor. She always encouraged us to dance with her, and so we would get up from whatever had our attention at the time, grab her hands and start moving. I have no doubt in my mind that it brought my mother so much joy to share those moments with us. If I had only known then that she was probably wishing to freeze that moment, I would have made it last so much longer. For her. I wouldn't have raced back to my barbies or my play "school". I would have held her hands and danced with her there until she let go. I would have stretched it out as long as I could. For her.
I had no idea how much my mother loved me. It wasn't hard to guess. She has always been nothing but selfless for me and my brother. She has always given anything and everything to ensure our safety and happiness. I was pretty sure I could imagine just how much she probably loved me as I got older, but I could never really understand until I had my son. And now I know.
She had it much harder than I do. She didn't have the Internet to google questions about baby foods or sleep patterns. She didn't have Pinterest to show her how to make homemade wipes or a Halloween costume. She learned as she went along and she did such an amazing job. I see a lot of her in myself. I say words to my son that I haven't heard in years, words that she used to say to us. I catch myself using the same looks and turning on the same music for us to dance to in the morning.
I couldn't make time stop for my mother. And I sure can't make it stop for me.
But if my children grow up, and look back on their childhood with affection and tenderness, and think that I have done even half the job with them that my mother did with us, I will be satisfied.
Being a mother has revealed to me what a wonderful mom I am blessed to have.
Motherhood is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be. It is long sleepless nights and half eaten dinners. It is chasing around a speedy crawler and full hands and fumbling keys on the way to the car. It's even Sunday mornings in the nursery. And I'm only ten months in.
But I wouldn't trade a second of it, not for anything in the world. It reveals something new to me every day. Something about who I am, who God is, and what a blessing I've been given in my son. All I can do when I'm having one of those days where I'm feeling as though maybe I'm not cut out for this mother stuff, is to be aware of my treasures. Be conscious that this is the best we get in life. These are some of my happiest days. Even worn out, when I lay my head on the pillow at night and think back on all I've done with my son that day and all that has made me laugh and smile, it was worth it. And I can't slow the days down, not a bit. But I can make sure I use them up. And show him how much I love him every opportunity I get. Just like my mother did for me.